Bio Etiquette for Editors

I’m having a strange experience. I got an email from the editor of another journal, one in which I’ve actually been published and nurtured hopes of being published in again, about one of my Anomalous author’s bios. The other journal editor is insisting that I remove the sentence in the bio crediting my author with being an editor at their publication (does that all follow…..?). In other words, though Author was an Editor at Other Publication at the time we did production, s/he is no longer an editor there. And Other Editor wants me to remove the line in the bio that says s/he is an Editor at Other Publication.

Ok, so my issue is a few things. One, it’s not the author asking for the change. That makes me squirmy. Two, the author was an editor at the other publication at the time we went to press. The author was not lying about the position, s/he merely left the publication. (Under nasty circumstances, seemingly, but should that be a factor?) Finally, if we were a print pub, or even an ebook format pub, rather than a multi-media pub in which one of our formats happens to be web, would we be asked to make this change? Print, definitely no. Ebook, probably not….since distribution happens at a fixed moment in time just like in print.

It seems like a web pub shouldn’t be expected to update its authors bios whenever there is a change in circumstance. Right? Or should they? The thought of making changes to a bio each time someone’s situation changes is a little staggering….just in terms of time commitment it could be crazy. We have a cut-off date for changes to the pieces before we go into production, and bios are included in that. So unless someone is claiming to be something they never were and are not (like, if I wrote that I was the founding editor of Poetry, for example) then should bios be left as is? And who has the rights to make these changes?

Thoughts?

My feeling is that it’s in poor form to insist on erasing someone else’s bios, no matter what the circumstance. But even more so when the bio is merely outdated and not misleading or untruthful. But since this is a new issue for me, I’d love thoughts on it….

8 comments

  1. If it’s a real-time media, and you don’t have the resources of keeping each author’s bio up to date, you should probably create a conditional block in front of such future request by stating that the information reflects the author’s biography at the time of publication. Updating it at author’s will is one thing, changing things when a reader asks you to do so is politics. At least that’s what I think, and I’ll be very interested to know what was your decision in these circumstances.

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  2. Dave Steward

    “It seems like a web pub shouldn’t be expected to update its authors bios whenever there is a change in circumstance. Right?” Right. Otherwise publication becomes only temporary.

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  3. Kristina England

    I agree with Peter. A disclaimer going forward is probably best so you don’t get a request like this again. I don’t think you need to change the information because it was accurate at the time of publication.

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  4. I agree with everyone. First, if it was true at the time the author submitted it to you, it should be allowed to stand. Second, it is indeed creepy that the editor of other journal should ask you to do this. Third, perhaps the disclaimer is a good idea simply to avoid annoyances like this, but I feel it’s a bit of an imposition. It is understood in the publishing world that the things you publish were true at the time the work was submitted as final. If things change after that no one can or should be expected to do anything about it.
    Please let us know what you did.

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  5. Anonymous

    I vote, no updates! Respond “Sorry, we do not revise content once published.”

    It’s easy to revise (because an html file) does not mean it’s ok to revise. Content published as part of an issue or article that has a publication date to it must not be later revised — unless noted so

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  6. I agree with everyone else. I don’t think you need the disclaimer. It’s about editorial autonomy. Small magazine editors may not have much, but on our tiny reservations we are autonomous. (See Episode 115 of Walker, Texas Ranger, for a practical exploration of the concept.)

    One of the things that makes small magazines–and, by extension, small online magazines–so interesting is their historicity, the fact that Ezra Pound was a different EP–in everything from aesthetics to influence to politics, and certainly as contributor to various magazines–when he signed the BLAST! manifestos in 1914 than when he published his own in Poetry in 1932.

    Of course the situation is slightly complicated by your own desire for historicity, if you’d like to be published in that journal again–and assuming that that editor, within their autonomy, plays the douche bag, draws you into a probably arbitrary lit-feud with your contributor, and on that basis rejects suitable submission in the future.

    You could always write something for Molossus instead. 😉

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